tough love

It seems that closet purges are high on the agenda in Alexandria. January has never been so busy with requests for appointments. In my professional opinion, the trend seems to be aimed at what I like to call “solution dressing.” Having a better understanding of not only what we own but how to utilize it is one of the reasons why Alexandria Stylebook has gained so many followers. With a forecast of snow imminent, there’s no better time to do a quick analysis of yourself and your wardrobe. The two are forever evolving and like being caught in a rip tide: you have a better chance of surviving if you know how to move with it and not against it.

You can do everything right for a while and then life will still throw you a curve…right on your mid-section! When this happens, there is only one option and it’s NOT denial. One of my clients found me at TSALT last week and professed that she wanted me to come over and eliminate everything in her wardrobe that wasn’t working. I could tell by the look in her eye and tone in her voice that she meant business. She also wanted to identify a dozen outfits from what remained after the purge. We put a date on the calendar and I sent her my worksheet to help her start thinking about the process.

The impetus behind this extreme effort was the inevitable moment when a woman realizes that menopause has changed her body and the pieces she owns no longer work. What I’m about to state is very important: You have not failed the clothing, the clothing is now failing you. This is not a time to beat yourself up over the loss. It’s a time to empower yourself with the prospects of the future. However, in order to do this effectively, you must remove the reminders of your past size and shape. 

This particular client has fantastic style and a VERY healthy clothing budget. The pieces that were being eliminated were not only in impeccable condition but in many ways were classics — cashmere sweaters, perfectly tailored pants, and jackets. This wardrobe had everything covered in multiples. Once she found a pair of pants she liked, she would get them in all the colors they offered. While this methodology seemed like a great strategy for her wardrobe at one time, it meant now getting rid of two, three, and sometimes four of that style.  She had the space and funds to shop this way. The flip side however is that you must manage what you own. Having unlimited options becomes a burden at some point. The natural trajectory of life guides us to slow down and reestablish what we can handle. 

reality check

Part of her worksheet included projecting what she would be attending in the next year that would require black tie attire. She concluded that she would be attending less of those types of affairs and ultimately desired one or two fantastic selections that may be custom tailored for her. This made eliminating the other black tie pieces much easier. I also proposed that I find her “go-to” designers. Shopping contemporary clothing works for a period of your life but the bulk of these pieces are designed to time-out within two or three years. By elevating your price point to higher-end designers, you feel confident that your investment will satisfy your needs for a more comfortable seven to 10 year range. European women understand how to maximize pieces they purchase by using them over and over again. I find many women don’t feel put together because they can’t keep up with not only what they are buying but they don’t even own it long enough to develop their own style since the turnaround is so fast.


The approach that I ended up using with my client was a “guilty until proven innocent” elimination. Asking yourself what you should eliminate will sometimes only scratch the surface of a closet purge. Asking yourself what you should keep puts the onus on the item to prove to you that it satisfies this new era of ownership. 

• Does it fit?
• Is it age appropriate?
• Will it be useful for the next five years?
• Is it comfortable?
• Do I feel good in it?

Here is a before and after to show how effective this was. For the record, these are two examples of her out-of-season closets. Three hours, 12 bags (eight to consignment and four to Goodwill), and two bins of denim, cords, and pants was a satisfying beginning to the New Year! We still have shoes and some closet identifiers to add. The final stage will be providing her with some new wardrobe looks. 

before and after 1

before and after 2


In order to test some of the pieces that she was on the fence about, my client has decided to implement an idea she used years ago: a calendar or diary of outfits she wears. Documenting what you’ve worn will remind you of good combinations and ones that ultimately didn’t satisfy. It will also identify what you are NOT wearing.  I suggested adding a column for how she felt in each outfit as well. We will also color code hangers to identify appropriate uses based on weather and seasons. I often remind my clients that certain items are used for specific weather days. Short sleeve wool sweaters do not make sense in temperatures that we are currently experiencing. More often than not, those were items that were purchased during the “bridge” seasons, pre-fall and pre-spring. Implementing a hanger coder to identify those items will help her utilize her wardrobe more effectively. Routinely dressing day-to-day during the winter can have you miss a great opportunity for a short sleeve wool sweater on that 55+ degree day. Learning how to strategically use our wardrobe can be very satisfying.

rainbow rings

Finally, I want to stress that facing a new phase in your life, whether it’s a new baby, new job, divorce, retirement, or menopause, does not mean that you must give up who you are and how you define yourself. You do not have to give up on your style…just the clothing that is becoming a road block in this evolution. Regardless of your age, every one of us will have to face change at some point. It is as certain as this snow storm!

bigger boat

The best part of this process for the client is that all the spring items leave with me. Next stop, one or two consignment appointments to turn her discards into cash!

in car 1

Stay warm and email me if you have any questions as you contemplate your wardrobe. I’m not going anywhere all day Saturday!

  • The latest from Alicia
Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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